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Jeopardy Producer Responds To Theory That Recent Winning Streaks Are Due To Easier Clues

Few rule changes have likely had a bigger impact on the classic quiz show Jeopardy! than the removal of the five-game limit in 2003, which has allowed champions to play until they actually lose. Even with the rule change, though, extended runs have been relatively rare, but you probably wouldn’t know that if you’ve been watching Jeopardy! for the past year in particular. Fans have wondered if the impressive winning streaks of Matt Amodio, Jonathan Fisher and current champion Amy Schneider could be because of easier clues, and a Jeopardy! producer has responded to that theory.

Amy Schneider is on a 29-game win streak and recently made history as the first woman to surpass the $1 million mark. Her success began just weeks after Jonathan Fisher’s 11-game run, with Fisher being the one who ended Matt Amodio’s 38-game streak. Jeopardy! executive producer Michael Davies addressed this phenomenon in an email to The New York Times, saying the clues aren’t getting easier. In fact, he thinks it’s the opposite. 

Behind the scenes we’ve spent a lot of time discussing whether this is some kind of ‘new normal’ or whether we’ve just had an unusual windfall of brilliant Jeopardy! players. . . . I actually think the show may be getting harder. Let’s face it, so few people read the same books anymore or watch the same TV shows. And we have massively diversified the history, cultural and pop cultural material we expect our players to compete over.

The amount of information available at our fingertips has grown exponentially over the years, but that works both ways. As the contestants increase their knowledge on different trivia topics — with an increasing number of movies, TV shows, celebrities, historical events, etc. to keep track of — the Jeopardy! writers have risen to challenge them further. 

Also, what constitutes an “easy clue” is going to vary wildly from player to player. That was certainly the case recently when Amy Schneider and her fellow contestants were unable to identify rapper Machine Gun Kelly, despite his recent prominence in the world of pop culture. As well, sports categories tend to be the ones that stump contestants the most, even when they might be easy-peasy for someone like mega-champ James Holzhauer.

The pandemic might also have played a role in the recent contestants’ success, as production shutdowns allowed more study time for people who already knew they were going to be on Jeopardy!. Both Matt Amodio and Amy Schneider were supposed to compete in 2020, The Times reported, but each ended up having an extra year to prepare.

Whatever the cause in the recent surge in winning streaks, it’s made for some entertaining Jeopardy! episodes. Not only do viewers get to know the most successful champions a little better, it’s also fun to watch the contestants try to chase down the record-holders. Check your local listings to see when Jeopardy! airs in your market, and be sure to take a look at our 2022 TV Schedule to see what shows are premiering soon. 

Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.